Mosses are adaptable, opportunistic plants. They thrive in a wide variety of locations, but are most often found in moist, shady sites. Mosses are common in many lawns and gardens this year. The abundant rainfall last year provided favorable growing conditions for mosses.
Control of Mosses in Lawns
Mosses don't harm or kill turfgrass plants. However, mosses grow in thin, weak lawns. Poor turfgrass vigor is often due to excessive shade, low fertility, poor drainage, compacted soil, or any combination of the above.
Mosses can be temporarily removed by hand raking. (Mosses don't have true roots and rake up easily.) However, the underlying conditions responsible for the poor stand of grass must be corrected to achieve a permanent solution.
If shade is a factor, prune low-hanging branches of trees and shrubs to allow more light into the area. Plant shade tolerant grasses in shady areas. The fine-leaf fescues (creeping red fescue, hard fescue, and chewings fescue) tolerate considerable shade.
Conduct a soil test to determine the soil pH and nutrient levels. If the soil is deficient in phosphorus or potassium or needs liming, the soil test report will indicate which materials to apply and the proper amounts. If adequate levels of phosphorus are present, choose a lawn fertilizer containing no additional phosphorus when fertilizing the lawn. The best times to fertilize lawns in Iowa are spring, September, and late October/early November.
Compacted soils can be improved by aerating the lawn with a core aerator in spring or fall. Core aeration should improve water infiltration and promote drying of moist soils.
Control of Mosses in Gardens
Mosses in perennial beds and other landscape areas are typically found in damp, shady locations. As in lawns, mosses don't harm perennials, shrubs, trees, or other ornamentals. If you find their presence objectionable, remove mosses with a rake or other garden tool. To discourage mosses from coming back, periodically loosen the upper one to two inches of soil with a hoe or hand cultivator. This will promote drying of the soil surface.
Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on March 25, 2016. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.